Ag Bureau of SA for Men & Women

Self-help clubs of farmers promoting improved agricultural production were formed in progressive rural communities during the 1880’s. At this time, for example, a farmers’ union was formed in the Barossa Valley and a mutual association developed branches throughout the state promoting farm business and political action. Early history of The Agricultural Bureau of South Australia. (PDF 316.9 KB)

At the beginning of the 1880’s, Albert Molineux, a farmer at Klemzig, a printer, gold miner and finally the editor of the South Australian Register and the Observer, began waging an unrelenting campaign to promote farmers’ clubs conforming to his view that, for long term viability, ‘Politics, religion and all debatable subjects should be nowhere in a farmers’ union’. His aim was strongly supported by landowners: and the Agricultural Bureau was formed - which, since 1888, as a non-profit and non-political organization, has profoundly influenced the development of profitable and sustainable cereal growing, pastoral, dairying and horticulture production across the State.

From the start of these initiatives, Parliament assisted the Bureau movement by appointing leading agriculturalists to a Central Agricultural Bureau designed to advise successive governments on agricultural issues and direct resources, such as a secretariat, to the movement. This group became the Advisory Board of Agriculture (ABA), which remains the governing body of the Bureau, comprising Agricultural Bureau, Women in Agriculture & Business (WAB), Government and University representatives.The ABA today still advises and consults with its stakeholders on rural landowner, community and social issues.See current Advisory Board membership listing

During the life of the men’s Agricultural Bureau nearly 550 branches were formed with more than 150 active at any one time. During the height of the movement’s popularity in the 1960’s, one in three farmers in the wheat belt were active members. Across the country 100 meetings were held each week, keenly supported by horticultural advisers, agronomists, livestock officers and economists in the Department of Agriculture,and specialists in the CSIRO, universities and commercial organisations. Branches across the State conducted financial management, soils, crop protection and succession schools and encouraged social interaction where members exchanged their knowledge and experience and offered support. Members were also offered opportunities to participate in field research, farm walks,crop competitions, soil conservation and machinery field days and more recently in Landcare and other funded projects run by the Advisory Board of Agriculture and / or individual Branches.

At a meeting of the Advisory Board of Agriculture in October 1917, steps were taken to form the Women’s Agricultural Bureau (WAB), a rural women’s organisation, the first of its kind in Australia. Branches, supported by a government resourced organiser were formed across the state. At its peak there were 84 branches with 2565 members of the WAB, meeting to learn and share their experiences of improving rural family living concentrating on health, nutrition, hygiene and child development and education within the constraints of isolation and distance from urban resources.

In 1999, reflecting the changing role of women in rural areas, the Women’s Agricultural Bureau became Women in Agriculture and Business.

For many years and until recently, the Agricultural Bureau / ABA and WAB /WAB State Council were assisted by government funding providing a resourced head office executive / administrative team.

During this time the team sent many and varied documents / records / publications relating to the Ag Bureau / ABA, WAB (and Rural Youth) to State Records.
Interested members of the public are able to access these records for free through State Records.

By visiting their website and following the links, a researcher can register, order records for viewing and more. Researchers can phone State Records on 8343 6800 for assistance.

Additionally, two useful email addresses are:

From January 2016, the State Records’ Public Access Services Research Centre consolidated and located at their main repository at 115 Cavan Road, Gepps Cross. The website and phone number listed above for State Records, as well as social media sites (Facebook / Twitter) will provide further information regarding opening hours and relocation details.

Boxes deposited relating to the ABA / Agricultural Bureau includes information / material on its History, Bureau Branch and District Activities, and Branch / ABA Agendas and Minutes. The Overarching Reference Number for Ag Bureau and ABA material is GA 528, and individual deposits within this GA number have separate GRS numbers.

WAB records include publications relating to individual Branches, Branch agendas and minutes, and WAB New. Most have individual GRS numbers.

The ABA / Agricultural Bureau, WAB and Rural Youth have played a significant part of and to our State’s agricultural history, including their value to the economy and local regional communities. The Agricultural Bureau and WAB (which turns 100 years in 2017) continue to do so, albeit with considerably fewer members.

The material archived at State Records is testament to that contribution.

Further Reading

  1. One Hundred Years on the Land (see Books)
    A History of the Agricultural Bureau of South Australia by Caroline Guerin
  2. Hats off to WAB
    Ninety Years of Women in Agriculture and Business in South Australia by Adair Dunsford
  3. Agricultural Bureau (PDF 2.6 MB), 1893, Annual Report of the work and Proceedings of the Agricultural Bureau, for the year 1893-94.
    C. E. Bristow. Government Printer, North Terrace, Adelaide
  4. 100 Years of the Agricultural Bureau Movement, South Australian Agriculture and Its Future (PDF 664.6 KB)
    ABA Centenary Dinner Speech Delivered by Dr J. C. Radcliffe on Saturday 9th April 1988

Further Information

  1. website for the Agricultural Bureau of South Australia
  2. website for Women in Agriculture and Business South Australia

Prepared by: Annie Madden
Date: March 2016

Page Last Reviewed: 20 Nov 2017
Top of page